Monday, 26 January 2015

Books and Spikes



If you want a detailed report on how UK publishers are doing, then check out "Review of 2014" by Philip Jones in the Bookseller 20 January, 2015.
Here's a swift gloss -
"e-book sales outpaced print sales during the year."

Domestic e-book sales for Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins and Pan Macmillan totalled 49m units in 2014, a 15.3% rise on 2013. There was an 18% rise in 2012, and a huge 105% gain in 2012 (on 2011).

There are and probably always will be, spikes. The e-book market rate of growth was exaggerated in 2012 by the Fifty Shades trilogy, Spikes like this can play havoc with a companies figures, skew general trends and drive analysts crazy.

Independently published titles are growing, but no one has a way of tracking the rate of growth.

HarperCollins UK chief executive Charlie Redmayne says the traditional Christmas sales spike has "all but" disappeared. Waterstones m.d. James Daunt said virtually the same thing two weeks ago.

The other thing of interest is what everyone is calling the "print renaissance." The book trade has "rekindled its love affair with the physical book." 
Has digital helped revive and reinvent print?

The shift to tablet reading and the rise of subscription services, will likely change the narrative again. As Kindle's Russ Grandinetti suggested at Digital Book World last week, nothing is stable. Let's hope the book business is doing better than we all thought.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Real Books survive



Articles are starting to appear saying that readers are remaining loyal to real books. Bookshops in the UK, US and Australia are claiming rising sales figures. Waterstones in the UK claims a 5% rise in December against the previous year. Foyles reported an 8% rise. Barnes & Noble report a 5% rise in shares.

Physical books sold in the US rose  2.4% in 2014. In the UK real book sales fell by 1.3% but that is better than the 6.5% fall in 2013.
Deloitte are said to estimate 80% of book sales will be real books in 2015.

Ebook sales have slowed and fewer e-readers were bought at Christmas.
 
The growth area is young adult fiction. Teenagers prefer real books, maybe because they can read and share with friends. Also, many don't have credit cards for online buying.
The increase in sales of real books may be small, but at least it is travelling in the right direction. E-books seem to have stalled saleswise, though self-publishing is still increasing and that no doubt accounts for Twitter being filled with adverts for books to the point that I'm thinking of hunting for people not involved in writing just to get some sort of decent content.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Tennis again!

Tennis time again! I can't concentrate on writing or editing because I'm glued to the online slamtracker following Rafa's match.
Editing-wise I've re-read the first chapters of the work currently called Daisy because I haven't thought of a title. I found some places where I could cut a paragraph or two and tighten the whole thing up. The first five chapters are now printed out and soon I'll get back to work. Only one more set to go!  I got my timings in a muddle, so this should sort that out and then I can move on.

In case anyone is wondering, Tim is running well and shows no signs of hurt or injury. We went into the woods near Hexham yesterday yesterday. I wandered around taking photos while Tim ran everywhere, checking back with me every so often just tomake sure I was still following.

Rafa seems to have rallied now the end is in sight. A stomach bug's going around the players and he seems to have got it. You'd think they'd take very careful hygiene precautions when their physical state is so important.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Tim's accident

Nothing done these last three days because Tim fell on the  wooden floor of the bedroom. Usually he bounces back up as if nothing had happened, but this time he stood up on three legs, shivering and crying. Comfort and examination discovered no broken bones, nothing out of place, no painful places, no hot spots - in fact, nothing out of the ordinary. Yet for two days he was virtually immobile, and didn't want to be left alone.

So we massaged his leg, stayed beside him  and kept him warm. It happened so early in the morning he hadn't even been out for a pee. By ten o'clock that first evening he hobbled to the door and indicated he wanted to go out. He limped up to the lawn on three legs and carefully managed to have the longest pee I've ever seen. The pooh followed, so at least we knew there was nothing to worry about on that score.

The second day followed much like the first, but this time I got out the laptop and did some work while staying in the same room as with him. He got up once or twice and his movement got progressively easier as the day wore on. By night time he went out into the garden moving quite normally. The third day we went out for a walk with him on a lead so he couldn't run off and charge about as he normally does. He did just fine. Today, I think we're back to normal. When I drew back the blind he glared at the snow on the roof opposite. 'Look at that!' he might have been saying, so we went out, treading cautiously in the slippery slope down to the field. There is hardly a covering of snow, but he charged about in it with great delight. it's probably only the second time he has seen snow.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Fashions change

I'm still in reading mode. Reading is definitely taking pride of place and writing has taken a bit of a back seat. Still doing it, but stealing every moment I can to read. So what has caught my imagination?
Well, Helen started it all with her gift of books for my birthday. Then I bought a copy of Sansom's Lamentations and I'm saving that up to read when I start writing Matho 2 since a) I really like Sansom's stories and style  b) his story and mine are set in almost the same year - 1544.

My reading list is nothing if not eclectic. The last few weeks has featured Ian McEwan, Tess Gerritsen, Robert Goddard, Lee Child, Hugh Howey, and Sarah J Bolton to name but a few. I've bought Ross Poldark by Winston Graham, first published 1945, in preparation for the tv series due to screen in March this year. Writing style will have changed since then. I wonder how he will compare?

It is an age since I ventured into a book shop. In actual fact, it is an age since I went into town or the Metrocentre. Buying things and having them delivered is so easy these days. Not what bookshops or any other kind of shop want to hear, but that's the way it goes.

I thought in the dark, dismal days after Christmas you might all appreciate a reminder of what summer looks like - so here you are - a shot across Blackhead Beach in Australia.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

KDP, crime and voice

Kindle DP seems to have got itself in a muddle over Christmas. Either that, or my PC is heading for trouble. When I check my sales on KDP, the figures and locations do not tally. Titles sold in the US Canada, Europe, UK show in one section, but not in another. I hope it sorts itself out soon. 

I'm just about to launch into a blitz on writing and critiquing. Haven't done much over the hols, and definitely feeling withdrawal systems. I'm attempting a mystery with this wip, and being devious is not coming easy. In theory I'm not against having a murder in the pages, but find in practice a reluctance to harm any of my characters. Even the villain. I can't render them dead too soon, or else the story folds!

Perhaps a certain turn of mind is required for crime novels. An ability to describe squeamish things, for a start. There's also a great need to hang onto details, because so often the details become important later when all the unravelling-a -la-Poirot takes place. Given that a story changes as it is written in the case of many authors including me, remembering to lay the clues and remember them as you progress with the story is hard. In my case, there's confusion about who said what, when and where. Straight historicals are much easier!

I'm thinking about voice today, because I've just seen an article on Twitter on how Lee Child sets about writing Jack Reacher novels. Evidently he starts a novel on 1st Septermber each year and takes a year to complete. He has no plot and no draft when he begins, and he  thinks his hero's voice is the most important part of the story. It is certainly strong. I think it must be easier to maintain voice when the story is written in the first person POV. Another author who has a strong voice is Caroline Dunford with her Euphemia Martin mysteries - Death in the Highlands, and Death in the Family. The story lines are much lighter than Reacher, but the strong voice struck me right away - tart, very feminine and I loved it! That has got me thinking about how I present Daisy. Maybe this draft won't be the final one!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Battle lines




Kindle Unlimited (KU) attracted negative press coverage 
as indie authors saw what was happening to their sales. The general bad feeling floating around on the internet since Kindle Unlimited’s launch finally made it to the front page of the New York Times last Sunday“If you’re not an author with a slavish fan following, you’re in a lot of trouble” according to self-published author Bob Mayer “Everyone already has a ton of things on their Kindle they haven’t opened".

“What is now being proven is that market is not infinitely elastic,” publishing industry consultant Mike Shatzkin wrote on his blog on New Year’s Eve. “It seems likely that the low-priced indie authors are disproportionately affected by KU. Who bought indie author ebooks in the first place? The price-sensitive reader! Who switches from buying individual ebooks to the subscription service first? The price-sensitive reader! In other words, the subscription service offering appeals most to the same audience as those who read indie-published ebooks.”

Meanwhile, Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader wondered whether ebook subscription services are only a problem for indie authors or whether they will be a problem for traditional publishers as well. Of course, one of the main reasons that publishers feared ebook subscriptions in the first place was that they worried such services would cannibalize individual paid sales.  

Like all the other self-published authors, I noticed my sales were dwindling and there were few KU payments to compensate. So I unchecked the box that allows my titles to be read by Kindle Unlimited subscribers, only to find that it will take 90 days to become effective. And, of course, I was only 4 days into the next 90 days period, so I can look forward to poor sales until March. 

If Amazon continues to favour the reader over the author, one wonders what will happen down the line. Authors will no doubt pull out of Amazon altogether. There are other places to self-publish. As long as readers seek the cheapest form of reading, they will continue to use Amazon - until the stock available becomes so mediocre they too will go elsewhere.



 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Book Clubs

Book groups
 have existed as long as books have been read for pleasure but it seems they have flourished under social media. I've shyed away from joining, mostly because I don't want to read the kind of fiction favoured by book clubs and I'm not a group person. I'm a sit-back and listen person and observing group dynamics is often more entertaining than the topic under discussion. In recent weeks, there have been a few blogs on the topic, notably one from Joanne Harris ~

http://joannechocolat.tumblr.com/post/106244987266/readers-group-or-literary-groupie


"However, I’m getting increasingly concerned by the number of people who think it’s okay to sneer at people for what they read. It’s not okay to do that any more than it’s okay to exclude other people for what they wear, or what they eat, or what kind of accent they happen to have. Books are universal. They are here for everyone. To pretend superiority over someone because (for instance) you like Kate Atkinson and they like TWILIGHT is to be the worst kind of snob, a literary groupie who wants the world of books to be their own, exclusive yacht club. These people do nothing for the world of books. Instead, they create an atmosphere in which people are afraid to talk about the books they enjoy (or not); in which readers of “serious” books are allowed to look down upon those who read purely for pleasure;"


While applauding Ms Harris for her courage in stating this and more on a public blog, I think this kind of thing is also increasing in real life. Electronic interaction makes it easy to give the impression, deliberately or inadvertently, that certain fiction genres are not worth reading, or that certain authors are rubbish. Journalists have made livings for decades out of scathing reviews and these give the average reader ammunition to fire as if the thought were their own. I imagine individuals hastily scan the online reviews in the hope of finding something that gels with their own view before going to a discussion group. I know I would, if I belonged. One needs something to say, after all and Amazon provides reviews in plenty. One could be forgiven for thinking that very few genuine honest views are presented these days. Or am I being much too cynical?





Sunday, 28 December 2014

Thoughts on Hugh Howey's WOOL

Why the peculiar title? The experts keep telling us aspiring writers that a cover is all and the title comes close second in the quest for readers. I galloped through the book - except to eat, sleep and walk Tim - and came to the end slightly puzzled.

First of all - the cover is eye-catching but not informative in my humble opinion. The title is even less informative. Having just finished a book called The Wedding Yarn, which involved a wool shop, I might be forgiven for thinking this new story would be about sheep or knitting or both.  Not at all. The only thing I can see that is relevant to the story is that the powers who run the silo are pulling the wool over everyone's eyes in the hope of keeping them all trapped within its protection. Naughty, and definitely not nice.

But then the alternative is worse. The air outside the silo is toxic. That at least seems to be truthful. So you stay inside or you die. Not a happy alternative. The first two thirds of the book are excellent, with  lots of detail about life in the silo, some doomed people who want to "go outside," and  what the Americans call a kick-ass heroine called Juliette. (Had I been HH, I would have picked a shorter name. Imagine having to type two e's and two t's every time for no apparent gain in pronunciation.)

But the last section seems to unravel (to keep the wool pun going) or else I read too fast and missed important info along the way. The way Lukas guessed what had happened was odd, the way Bernard vanished was doubly odd and we were never told what burn injuries Juliette suffered, or what transpired between her and her father. There was also the curiosity of the kids in the other silo - the oldest was fifteen, yet Solo said he'd been there thirty years on his own. So who conceived and bore the children, brought them up? Who kept the lights running?

Any answers delightfully received!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas, Wool and mud

Ah well, the festivities are almost over. The afternoon of  Christmas Eve we enjoyed a couple of hours in Park Wood near Hexham without seeing another person, and on Christmas Day we had the Spetchells by the river Tyne all to ourselves. Seems not many people ventured out, and yet the weather was pleasant enough.

We had duck breast as our Christmas dinner, but giving Tim a few titbits proved a bad move. He spent the evening walking around the room, flopping down only to get up again  within a minute or two. Eventually I put  a large flat cushion of the floor, he cuddled up beside me and we watched all two hours of the Downton Christmas Special together. Worse was to follow. He wouldn't settle when we went to bed, but kept moving around. Around one thirty he wanted to go downstairs and into the garden where he performed three pees and a poo. I came to the conclusion he had doggy indigestion. Came back inside, upstairs, settled down for a bit, then around two thirty he was sick on the upstairs landing. (DH, needless to say, slept through all of this!) He (Tim, not DH) finally settled on a large cushion by the side of  the bed and he and I got some sleep. Moral of  story? Don't feed your dog rich food.

The Sales have begun today. A good day to stay away from town and the Metrocentre! Once the initial madness is over, then I might venture out and see what, if anything, is still for sale. M&S sales are usually hopeless as everything is either less than a size 8 or greater than size 16. Still,  we live in hope, That's what keeps us going.

Snatched a copy of Wool by Hugh Howey from the library and have read a third of it. I can see why it caught people's interest and became an Amazon bestseller. It has caught mine now, and I want to sit and go on reading to find out what has killed everyone off and if Juliette can possibly survive, isolated as she is in a place full of dead people. Tim is hovering beside me, anxious to go for his walk, so I can't read any more just yet. I think we'll just go along the riverbank and I'll try and stay upright in all the mud. Tim is OK; he has crampons built into his paws!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Taster of the Scots Queen

Here's a small seasonal gift ~ a little taster of my latest book!

Matho and Meg Douglas meet when she rides into Stirling thinking how best to befriend the Dowager Queen, Marie de Guise. He and his friend Harry Wharton are plotting how best to kidnap the Dowager's infant daughter, Mary. 

"Riding into Stirling, Meg eyed Broad Street with a calculating eye, but decided it was not a place she would choose to live. A cheerful crowd, jostling for a view of the gallows, surged about the open space between the Mercat Cross and the grim old Tolbooth. A hanging must be imminent. Her escort closed protectively around her and forced a way through to the top of the hill.

Both her destination and the castle came into view at the same time. Meg caught her breath at the sight of the Great Hall, pale as day-old cream in the October light, shining like a beacon against the darker stone of the older castle buildings.

‘You there! Shift yer hide!’ The sharp order from her Serjeant snagged her attention. He had halted his horse and glared at two men sitting on the perimeter wall surrounding Douglas House. The taller of the two slid off the wall and disappeared in the direction of Broad Street before she had time to glimpse his face. When she looked at the other man, her heart gave a single, painful bound.

Thomas!

She blinked, and found she’d raised a gloved hand to her throat. Her heart thudded light and fast in her chest. Like Thomas, this man’s skin had been coloured by wind and sun, and his hair held the same dark-red fire of beech leaves. Yet Thomas Howard had been dead these six years. When the fellow slid from the wall, she realised the resemblance was no more than a trick of the light.

He glared at her little company as they rode by. Such insolence! His torn sheepskin and rough, darned hose labelled him as farm labourer in town for the day. She raised her nose in the air. He stiffened, and drew his heavy brows together. With a snort of disgust, he turned and walked toward the town.

She stared after him. The tilt of his head and the lithe grace of his walk were so reminiscent of Thomas. Shave this stranger, dress him in velvet, satin and jewels, and the likeness would be remarkable.

Turning in the saddle, she faced Douglas House and rode into the courtyard without registering the recently refurbished dormer windows and freshly carved stone griffons that adorned the roofline."

Check out the reviews on Amazon: 

Available: http://amzn.to/1wQTs7F for the UK link.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas and GONE GIRL

I read Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL  last week. Initially I thought I wasn't going to like it, for the beginning was very slow. Then slowly, slowly, I got more and more interested and couldn't stop reading. By the end I thought it was a masterful piece of writing, even if the subject matter was a tad off centre. Not many people are so vengeful they will spend a year or more planning a crime and then put themselves through hell in order to bring it about. It could be done, of course, and on the one hand admiration is the overriding factor; on the other, it is pity for such wasted lives. I just hope the story doesn't encourage anyone to try and emulate the plot.

The last line of the book was both inoffensive and full of menace. Hardly the open ending some claim, when one considers the female protagonist's past history. Nick had better watch  his back and both sides....  

Just the sort of thing to read for Christmas!

Just when we thought winter had finally arrived with chilly, crisp days, we're back in the muggy, damp dreary days again. I could hate this weather but I suppose it is kind to the wild creatures that have to live outdoors. The masses of autumn berries have already been eaten. Our holly bush was stripped bare so our plans for a holly wreath at the front door have been scuppered again. I'll have to give in and buy one - or do without berries!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Run-up to Christmas

Miss a day and e-mails choke up the computer! Now I'm running to keep up, and all because I took Saturday out to host a dinner for friends. Well, and Sunday to get over it - I was cream-crackered even though DH did a lot of the cooking!

Here I am today, running to catch up. E-mails checked off - except that for some reason BT Openworld is down, though G mail is functioning without a hitch. Keeping abreast of the Sydney Lindt cafe seige, and trying to plan for the next few days and the run-up to Christmas. I try and stay out of town at this time of year because I dislike being pushed and shoved in crowds, and conspicuous consumption is quite ugly in its raw state. Unfortunately, some things must be purchased, and while buying online is great in many ways, I do like to touch and feel clothes I buy - before I buy! I need something for DH, and so I'll sneak in really early one day this week. Everything seems to be so urgent in the run up to the big day. So many things that Must Be Done and yet, would we really miss them if they weren't done? Will anyone notice if I fail to buy or make sausage rolls? I doubt it!

Walking with Tim is a slipery-slidey task these days. We've had one good day of frost when the ground was hard and silver with frost. Tim went out in his overcoat - the temperature had dipped below freezing overnight. He trotted out looking very pleased with himself. The frost had gone by lunch time, the overcoat went back on the hook and the ground turned to mud again, The fields are green, winter wheat is growing apace in the fields. The lawn looks a mess because it is still growing but too soggy to cut. 2014 has been the strangest year for weather that I can remember.




Thursday, 11 December 2014

Complaints about Kindle Unlimited

Best selling American writer H M Ward has something to say about Kindle Unlimited.

"Ok, some of you already know, but I had my serials in it for 60 days and lost approx 75% of my income. Thats counting borrows and bonuses. My sales dropped like a stone. The number of borrows was higher than sales. They didn't compliment each other, as expected.

Taking a huge ass pay cut while I'm still working my butt off, well that's not ok. And KU effected my whole list, not just KU titles. At the time of enrollment I had about 60 titles total.

I planned on giving it 90 days, but I have a kid in the hospital for long term care and I noticed my spending was going to exceed my income-by a lot. I couldn't wait and watch thing plummet further. I pulled my books. That was on Nov 1, & since then my net revenue has gone up. I'm now at 50% of where I was pre-KU. During the time I was in KU, I had 2 new releases. Neither preformed vastly different than before. They actually earned far less (including borrows).

This model needs to be changed for it to work. Authors shouldn't be paid lottery style. For this system to work we need a flat rate for borrows, borrowed or not borrowed (not this 10% crap), and it needs to be win win for the reader AND the writer. That is the crux of the matter.

Id like to see Amazon create something new, something better instead of falling in step with Scribd and Oyster.

Example: subscribe to an AUTHOR. Easy, clear. When Author X has a new book it automatically gets sent to your kindle, & the card provided is charged.

As a reader, I'd want that. As a writer, I'd want that.

Amazon, stop following other companies and break the mold.

Ok, I'm done ranting. Back to writing."

I'd notice my sales have gone way down since Kindle Unlimited appeared on the scene, but thought there could be many causes for this. It is reassuring to see other top-selling authors complaining about the same thing. And complaining they are!

Here's a link all independent authors using Amazon should read.
http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,202571.0/all.html

There's also a link to this article on the new blog Passive Voice over to the right hand side of this blog.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Winter Casualty

Out walking today with Tim and came across what I hope will be the only casualty of winter. Couldn't see any injuries and no sign of a struggle. Beautiful little fox, and not very old. A touch of frost on his fur, since he was in the shadow of the tall hedge separating the fields. Tim sniffed and sniffed but made no effort to touch it.

Brilliant cold day with low sunshine making long, long shadows across the fields. At last the temperature is comfortable for walking fair distances at a decent pace. Lovely and warm inside my old Goretex jacket, fleece hat and gloves, but with my face freezing!  Quite a change to the last few weeks when the slightest effort has had me sweating because I dressed for November instead of the actual temperature.

Good weather for writing, too. Nice to be snug and warm inside my imaginary world. This time it is Victorian England with an art thief as villain. I'm finding it difficult to work in the crimes themselves and leave clues without giving away the whole thing. I fear I my have the timing of incidents out of sequence - or someone knows something when they shouldn't. Will have to read through very carefully before too long!



I hope the fox wasn't poisoned. It is a worrying thought when so many dogs walk the fields with their owners. Dalmatians are very greedy dogs, and Tim is no exception. He ate something nasty along the riverside at Hexham a couple of days ago, and vomited it back up before we finished the walk, but he doesn't learn....probably an old fish skin or carcase. Fishermen tend to leave them behind and I wish they wouldn't. There's nothing quite as smelly as an old fish head.